Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wet evening - ND in progress

She stood behind the bus in a knot with the beanpole, the retro girl, and a cluster of other kids from the college next to the school. One pushed past her roughly, less of a boy than the others, but maybe it was his suit that stood out among all the jeans, his air of self-importance and his leather satchel. He placed himself on the road directly in the spot she was about to step into, as if she wasn’t there.
Only four unbroken lanes of traffic between her and the school. The cars’ lights glowed over the crest just moments before they broke the hill at speed. The streetlights, the headlights, the lights from the school, all bounced off the wet road.
The bus dusted them with exhaust as it pulled into a break in the traffic, hiding the cars on the other side of the road. In the wake of the bus, the polka dot girl made a break for the median strip. She teetered on the concrete, just wide enough for her shoes, pulling her skirt around her. The kids spilled into the empty bus zone and spread out along the lane-marking, a step back, just out of range of the rain spray from the cars’ wheels. Kate twisted her watch again. All she needed was a couple of cars’ gap both directions, big enough for a brisk walk.
The traffic lights at the bottom of the hill changed and the flow of cars on the other side stopped. The polka dot girl dashed to the far side and gave her friends a victory wave. The lights changed again, the traffic surged up the hill again. Even if he wasn’t there to see it, her face flushed thinking of the example she was setting for Ben.
She balanced the toes of her shoes over the edge of the kerb, one last look for a break. The water on the road made slippery, marbled oil rainbows. Not today, she told herself, not with the dark and the wet and the speed. She turned away from the headlights and felt her eyes relax. She started down towards the other bus stop, the one she would have been at by now if she’d only stayed on the bus.
It began to drizzle. She held her bag over her head as she trudged down the hill. The light raindrops were caught in gusts of wind and hit her straight on. She swung the bag down to her side again. She passed the next bus stop and it was empty. She could see Simon’s mum already most of the way back up to the school. As she got to the lights she twisted her watch. Too late to be early, but just enough time to be on time. Ben would be waiting for her. He was so exact in everything, it bothered him that she wasn’t. She pulled out her phone as she waited for the lights to change and started a text saying ... what? ‘Don’t explode, I’m here’?
Across the road. Be there first appointment.
She heard a screech and a thud. She tried to look where the sound had come from, up the hill but the lights of the oncoming cars blinded her. A shout and she saw a car fishtail across the lanes and speed past her. Idiot, she thought, on a night like tonight.
She banged on the button again and it gave a metallic clang. She did it once more in case anyone was taking notice. The lights stayed don’t walk, but the traffic from up the hill dried up. Wouldn’t you know it, she thought, now that I’ve walked all the way to the lights. She watched for a moment or two, and her side of the road stayed empty. She could see a break coming up on the other side. She twisted her watch, two minutes. She looked both ways twice, as if someone was watching, and made her dash.
She could see polka dot girl waiting just beyond the school on this side. So maybe Kate had made the right decision, if the girl’s friends still hadn’t made it across. The girl teetered on the edge of the kerb, leaning into the traffic, staring across the road. Her hand was over her mouth, its tremble her only movement.
A car was stopped in the middle lane, in its headlights lay a man flat out in the road, arms and legs splayed like he’d fallen backwards onto a mattress. Around his head was a dark spreading pool. Lying about a metre away, in line with his arm, his leather satchel was neatly deposited on the bitumen. Another car was stopped at a crazy angle behind the first. Traffic backed up behind them. Three, four people were standing in a loose semi-circle, oriented to the man but looking away, looking for someone to take the lead. The suit, the satchel - the man who stepped into her spot. Someone had a phone out. A woman was pumping at his chest, one knee in the shiny puddle that wasn’t mixing with the rain. Kate could tell by the way his head lay on the road, the way people stood around doing nothing but not walking away, it was for nothing. When he had stood in front of her he was cocky and an idiot, but he didn't deserve this.

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